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By Charlie Garfinkel

For the third straight year, Andreea Novaceanu, 27, is the area’s top ranked women’s player, by virtue of winning the Muny Women’s Open Singles and a tournament at Miller Tennis Center this past year. (Last year she was co-ranked number one with Kelly Brown).

She has also won the last three Muny Women’s Singles Championships and has defeated her former UB teammate and close friend Smaranda Stan in each of the Muny finals. Most of their matches, both in the Muny and at Miller, have gone three sets, with Novaceanu usually starting slowly in each match.

“Smaranda and I are both from Romania and have known each other from high school,” Novaceanu said. “When I play Smaranda I usually try to keep the ball in play in the first set and move her around the court. However, she is a very tough competitor and sometimes the strategy works and sometimes it doesn’t.

“If I lose the first set I start hitting harder and try to control most of the points. Fortunately, the strategy usually works and I continue to play better and better into the third set, which usually results in a victory for me.”

Novaceanu knows that she has to play her best when she plays Stan, who has beautiful strokes and is a fierce competitor. She is a hard worker and has a great work ethic.

Novaceanu relates that she knows each of her matches with Stan aren’t going to be easy. “Smaranda has a great mind set and never is an easy win,” she said.

Novaceanu’s left forehand is as good as any women’s player ever in Western New York. She gives all of the credit for that shot should be give to her brother Andrei, who was one of the top juniors in Romania.

Novaceanu, who also was one of the top ten juniors in Romania, started tennis in a most unusual way. Her father Vasile, who was also an excellent tennis player, was the traveling team coach for the national tennis team.

He started her in tennis when she was six or seven years old by having her practice in a odd way. Her brother would hit one shot and she would hit it back. He would hit her another ball and she would hit it back, and then do it a third time.

They would do this three-shot session over and over, she said, “Even at an early age the drill taught me to focus at all times and that is one of the main reasons for my success over the years.”

Novaceanu’s ability to play tennis was noted not only by her father and brother, but also by many local players.

When Andreea was nine her father started entering her in 10 & Under, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16, and 18 & Under tournaments. Needless to say, she would get destroyed. However, her confidence never wavered. She actually played an ITF 16 & Under tournament when she was nine and was beaten handily. She was given an award for being the youngest player in the tournament. Even better, by playing in so many age group tournaments she knew most of the juniors in Romania.

When Novaceanu was eleven she started to realize that she could do some damage in tennis if she really concentrated and played hard. She achieved a No. 3 ranking in the 12 & Under division and was consistently top 10 in the country in the higher age groups.

As her prowess became well known, Alida Gallevitz, a Romanian who was the assistant tennis coach at UB under the legendary Kathy Twist, started to follow Novaceanu’s outstanding high school career. He was very impressed with her record and style of play.

She was given a full scholarship to UB and played first singles all four years.

Novaceanu reached her apex during her senior year when UB won the women’s Mid-American Conference title and played in the NCAA Division I National Championships against UCLA, one of the top teams in the country. The Bruins had Stella Sampras, Pete Sampras’ younger sister, as their coach.

Novaceanu played first singles against the nation’s No. 7 Division I player, Riza Zalaneda, and was leading 6-1, 1-4, when the match was stopped due to the fact that UCLA had won enough individual matches to make UB’s chances of winning impossible.

Twist had said at that time, “Andreea played magnificently and will surely go down as one of UB’s all-time greatest tennis players.”

Novaceanu graduated from UB and recently received her Masters Degree from Canisius College. “I really enjoyed going to school and playing tennis at UB,” she said. “I am moving back to Romania next week to work in my family’s business and have mixed emotions about leaving and will miss the many friends that I made at school. I will especially miss Kathy Twist, who was a phenomenal coach, and the players that I played with.”

Sargent & Collins honored

On Jan. 26, Sargent & Collins LLP, will receive the USTA Eastern’s Corporate Service Award as the Eastern Tennis Section holds its Annual Awards Dinner at the Renaissance Westchester Hotel in White Plains.

The award is given annually to an organization whose sponsorship of section events and programs has helped to grow tennis in the section.

For the past two years, the Williamsville law firm has sponsored the Sargent & Collins, LLP Women’s $10,000 Championships, a USTA Pro Circuit event, and the only women’s pro tournament in the Buffalo area. The event, which is held at Miller Tennis Center in Williamsville, includes a number of community events, including a Kid’s Day and an Adult Drill and Cardio Extravaganza.

The firm also sponsors the Buffalo Municipal Tournament, which is held in Delaware Park and attracts more than 300 participants.

Jill Fonte is the executive director of the USTA Eastern section. She said, “We are very fortunate to have Sargent & Collins in our section. The firm’s commitment to pro tennis has brought rising women tennis stars to the Buffalo area, and its support of community tennis has given players of all ages and abilities a chance to play and enjoy the lifelong sport.”

To register for the dinner, or to place an ad in this year’s dinner journal, visit www.eastern.usta.com.

email: thegreatgar@verizon.net